South Korea to kill cats and dogs over bird flu fears27/11/2006 - 09:58:03
South Korea plans to kill cats and dogs to try to prevent the spread of bird flu after an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 virus at a chicken farm last week, officials said today.
Animal health experts, however, suggested it was “a bit of an extreme measure” when there was no definitive scientific evidence to suggest that cats or dogs could pass the virus to humans.
Quarantine officials have already killed 125,000 chickens within a 1,650-foot radius of the outbreak site in Iksan, about 155 miles south of Seoul, the Agriculture Ministry said.
Officials began slaughtering poultry yesterday, a day after they confirmed that the outbreak was caused by the H5N1 strain.
They plan to slaughter a total of 236,000 poultry, as well as an unspecified number of other animals, including pigs, and all dogs and cats in the area by Thursday, the ministry said. About six million eggs also will be destroyed, it said.
Slaughtering cats and dogs near an area infected with bird flu would be highly unusual in Asia.
Indonesia has killed pigs in the past, but most countries concentrate solely on destroying poultry.
However, it would not be the first time for South Korea to kill cats and dogs due bird flu concerns. An official at the Agriculture Ministry said South Korea had slaughtered cats and dogs along with 5.3 million birds during the last known outbreak of bird flu in 2003.
Another ministry official, Kim Chang-sup, insisted killing cats and dogs to curtail the spread of bird flu was not an unusual practice.
“Other countries do it. They just don’t talk about it,” Kim said, adding that all mammals are potentially subject to the virus and that South Korea is just trying to take all possible precautionary measures.
He declined to comment further.
However, animal experts disputed the validity in culling cats and dogs.
“It’s highly unusual, and it’s not a science-based decision,” said Peter Roeder, a Rome-based animal health expert with the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation or FAO, who published research about cats and bird flu earlier this year in the journal Nature. “We’ve got absolutely no reason to believe they’re important,” he said.
Dr Jeff Gilbert, an animal health expert at the FAO in Vietnam, described South Korea’s plan as “a bit of an extreme measure”.
He said dogs and cats have been known to occasionally become infected, but they pose little risk to humans and that in most cases, the animal has contracted the virus through eating infected poultry.
Tigers and snow leopards in a Thailand zoo died in 2003 and 2004 after being fed infected chicken carcasses. Earlier this year, a few domestic cats tested positive for the virus in Europe.
The H5N1 virus began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in late 2003 and has killed at least 153 people worldwide.
So far, the disease remains hard for people to catch, and most human cases have been traced to contact with infected birds. But experts fear it will mutate into a form that is easily spread among people, possibly creating a pandemic that could kill millions.
South Korea has also been hit by a low-grade strain of bird flu that is not harmful to humans.
North Korea, meanwhile, has stepped up prevention measures, by inoculating poultry and closely monitoring migratory birds, the country’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Monday.
Bird flu hit North Korea early last year, prompting the slaughter of about 210,000 chickens and other poultry. No new cases of bird flu have since been reported.
more stories like this:
- once per day, no spam.